Riders’ 2020 CFL draft hits all the right notes

Photo courtesy: Huskies Athletics

If there’s one thing that has been consistent throughout the one year tenure of Riders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day, it’s calm.

It’s a tune that’s been welcome in Saskatchewan after an adventurous few years under Chris Jones and the up-and-down nature of the Brendan Taman/Corey Chamblin regime.

O’Day hasn’t gone out of his way to make big splashes in free agency, and he’s taken the same approach in the draft. Even though it’s not really interesting to write about, O’Day’s approach has been the right one for the green and white should they want to achieve the sustained success president Craig Reynolds is looking for.

In this year’s draft, O’Day chose based on need but didn’t go out of his way to do it. That’s because the Riders had to get depth across the board. That’s exactly what they got by taking Melfort’s Mattland Riley out of the University of Saskatchewan in round one and the team’s six other selections.

Riley joins a growing list of Saskatchewan-born offensive linemen drafted or signed by the Riders — all of whom have had some level of success in the CFL. Will Riley ascend to the level of a Brendon LaBatte, Dan Clark or Ben Heenan? That’s yet to be determined.

What he does provide right now is some much-needed depth behind LaBatte, Clark and Dakoda Shepley. He’s also instant competition for former first overall pick Josiah St. John for the team’s sixth offensive lineman spot.

Here’s what 3DownNation’s John Hodge had to say about the selection:

2019 first-team U Sports All-Canadian who is stout and physical, but not dynamic. Gets to the second level on short screens effectively. Could play guard in the CFL but might be best-suited to playing centre; has experience at both positions.

Smart player who provides some much-needed depth for Saskatchewan along the offensive line. Not many teams had him ranked as a first-round talent, but he rose late in the process due partly to strong interviews with teams.

This might have been a round too early, but it’s hard to criticize taking a savvy local product in the first round considering there’s a chance he could start in a year or two. 

You can see Hodge’s thoughts on the rest of the Riders’ picks here.

After the opening round, O’Day had a long time to think about his next selection as the Riders didn’t have another selection until the fourth round. O’Day did have five more selections between the fourth and seventh rounds taking receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker, linebacker A.J. Allen, defensive back Vincent Dethier, running back Jonathan Femi-Cole, and offensive lineman Jesse Lawson.

Mid-round selections in the CFL draft are always hit-and-miss and this group will probably be no different. Most importantly, they all provide depth behind another Canadian on the roster.

In the eighth and final round, O’Day made his most interesting pick of the draft when he selected defensive lineman Neville Gallimore. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because the Ottawa native was recently a third-round NFL draft selection of the Dallas Cowboys.

There’s a very real chance that Gallimore never plays in the CFL. He has all of the tools to play defensive line in the NFL. So, why use a pick on a guy your team may never see? Well, it was the eighth round. Odds are pretty darn good that anyone you take probably won’t play a down for your team.

For some reason should Gallimore now make his way north, O’Day has assured that he’ll do so for the green and white and the pick becomes one of the best values you’ll ever see. It’s a flyer worth taking given the talent and how the rest of the draft went for O’Day.

This is a move O’Day has picked up from Jones, as he would take one or two guys like Gallimore every draft. The biggest difference is Jones normally took those types of players in the third or fourth rounds. O’Day had the patience to wait for his final pick to roll the dice.

All in all, it was another solid draft by O’Day, his second as a CFL general manager. He increased depth where it was needed across the board and took a low-risk gamble on a guy in the NFL.

Just another day at the office.

Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic. He is also a beer aficionado.